Famous last words.
Before I start this story there is something I should make sure is understood: I'm stubborn to a fault. I will put myself through hell and back before I yield to something that I don't want to yield to. Sort of like a horse that has to be broken before it can be ridden. It's not a conscious decision; it's just my nature. This fact will come into play. Here's what happened...
Pre-labor started on Thursday evening, July 14th. Aaron and I went to dinner at Razoo's with my mom and my nephew, and I ate some spicy Jambalaya pasta. I was hoping that the spicy food combined with chasing around a 2-year-old would make Sam decide he would more comfortable somewhere other than my uterus. Apparently it worked because I felt the first mild contractions that evening during dinner. They got stronger and more consistent through the night and eventually started waking me up every 10-15 minutes starting at about 3 am. This went on for 12 hours but nothing seemed to be progressing. The contractions were regular, but they weren't getting stronger or closer together and they were just painful enough to keep me from being able to relax. It was the kind of pain that makes you wince or grit your teeth a little and then it passes and you're okay. At 3 pm on Friday, July 15th, I decided to call my doctor who told me to go ahead and come to the hospital for observation.
We got to the hospital at about 5:30 pm. Can I just say that being driven through Friday rush-hour traffic in downtown Dallas in 108 degree heat while having contractions every 10 minutes was not my favorite part of this story? But that's okay. It gets 'better". I was admitted to Labor & Delivery triage where I had a wonderfully sarcastic nurse named Lisa. Seriously, she was funny and personable, and she understood my bizarre sense of humor. She did a pelvic exam (also not my favorite part of this story) and told me I was 80% effaced and dilated to 2 cm. She also said that Sam's head was low and my cervix was posterier which meant that every pelvic exam would be quite unpleasant from here on. They observed me for about an hour then sent me to walk around for awhile in hopes we could make something happen. The contractions were still coming every 10 minutes, but nothing was progressing. I should mention that this was the ONE weekend during the summer that my doctor took a vacation and was unavailable. The on-call doctor offered to induce me, but I declined since I was sure things would pick up on their own. Plus, I was still considering the possibility of labor and delivery without pain medication, and I did not want Pitocin. We went home with instructions to come back when my water broke or when the contractions were 5 minutes apart and I couldn't talk through them.
During the night things began to pick up quite a bit. By 6 am on Saturday the contractions were 4-5 minutes apart, and they were definitely stronger. At that point I hadn't slept more than 15-20 minutes at a time in over 24 hours. The pain was centered in my back and it made my whole body feel cramped up. I couldn't get a deep breath during a contraction, and I definitely couldn't talk through one. We headed back to the hospital with excitement. We were sure that the next time we pulled into our driveway we would have Sam in the backseat.
I checked back into triage at 6:30 am on Saturday morning. Unfortunately the only nurse on duty had all the personality of a wet mop. She was short-tempered and unwilling to listen to me. I needed to use the restroom, and I had a contraction while I was in there (ie. not being monitored). I had two more contractions while she went through the eternal list of questions nurses have to ask including asking where my pain was on a scale of 1-10. When I paused to consider the answer she said "5 is crying. Are you crying?". When I replied that obviously I was not crying since I was sitting in front of her dry-eyed she said "Then you're not even at a 5" and went on with her questions. Then she finally hooked me up to the monitor and did a pelvic exam while I was having a contraction. I was still only 80% effaced and dilated to 2 cm. After the exam the strength of the contractions lessened and then gradually began to build again. The nurse monitored me for about ten minutes more, and then called the on-call doctor (mine was still unavailable) and explained that I had not had a contraction since checking in. Apparently the two during her interrogation and the one during the exam didn't count. There was also apparently no need to listen to me when I told her I was feeling the pain in my back more than in my abdomen. She said that my contractions were "pitiful" and that I needed to "go home and work harder". I was angry and disappointed, but I tried to be rational and ask when I was supposed to come back since I had already followed the original instructions I was given. She told me again to "work harder" and just wait until my water broke. I told her that I live 40 minutes from the hospital, and I was concerned about waiting too long at home. She said that since this was my first baby I would have 2-3 hours of pushing so even if I was dilated to a 10 I wasn't going to have the baby in the car. I knew at that point she had decided I was a wimp who was overreacting, so I decided not to push the issue. I assumed if I went home I could wait through things until the shift change or until my water broke.
I held it together pretty well until we got in the car, and then I let myself break down and cry. I was exhausted and in pain that was worsening by the minute. We probably should have gone back into the hospital and demanded to see another nurse, but I was angry and unsure of my ability to remain rational so we went back home. By the time we got there the contractions were back to a regular pattern of 4-5 minutes apart and I was gritting my teeth and pushing through them. I decided to lay down with a heating pad on my aching back and try to rest.
I occasionally had 10-12 minutes between contractions and I was able to doze off for a few minutes, but for the most part I laid in bed and dealt with the pain. This went on for several hours as the pain continually worsened but no pattern developed in the timing of the contractions. My back ache was constant and moved back and forth from seriously uncomfortable to spasming uncontrollably during contractions. They came in waves and would increase in strength until they peaked; I would have 10 minutes or more between waves. By 4 pm I was unable to grit my teeth and breathe through the pain. By 7 pm I was yelling and crying through each contraction. Unfortunately they were still 5-7 minutes apart (which was the same pattern I had been sent home with) and my water had not broken. I was absolutely determined not to waste the gas to drive back to the hospital and go through the pain of another pelvic exam until I was sure they wouldn't send me home. I also knew that the same nurse was still on shift, and I was in no frame of mind to deal with her again. (Remember that stubborn to a fault thing?) I did place a call to the on-call doctor who reiterated what the triage nurse had told me - although she said that once the contractions were 2-3 minutes apart I should head to the hospital.
My amazing husband had sat with me all day and helped me as best he could, but he was rapidly reaching his wits end after watching me hurt so badly for so long. At 8 pm my dear friend, Kelly, called me and said she had just been hit with the overwhelming feeling that she needed to talk to me. She knew I had been having contractions, but she didn't know how bad it had become. I had a contraction while I was on the phone with her and she was able to talk me through it. Once she heard how badly I was hurting she told me that she was coming over and that I needed to call my mom and have her come too. There was absolutely no room for argument, and I don't think I would have had the strength to argue anyway. I decided to get in a hot shower and try to work my way through the pain while I waited on Kelly and my mom.
While in the shower the contractions suddenly became closer together. They were right on top of each other and I couldn't do anything but moan and yell my way through them. I was able to bend and let the water beat onto my low back while seemed to help a little bit. I finally got a little break and asked Aaron to help me out of the shower. As I dried off I felt another contraction coming. This one hit like a ton of bricks and completely doubled me over. It also felt different than the ones I had been having and suddenly my water broke. We noticed that the fluid was stained with meconium which concerned us a little bit, but I was still feeling Sam move around so we weren't panicked. We called my mom and told her to go to the hospital instead of our house. Kelly was almost at our house already, and by the time the bags were in the car she was there. She helped me breathe a little bit - the contractions had briefly gotten a little less intense - and then we headed to the hospital. As we drove down the street Aaron looked at me and said "Just so you know, once we get on the highway all bets are off". And he wasn't kidding. The man drove 70-90 miles per hour the entire way. My contractions had picked back up and were now 2 minutes apart, and we were both concerned about the meconium stained fluid.
We got to the hospital a few minutes after 10 pm on Saturday night. Of course I had to deal with consent forms, but they got me admitted and into a room as quickly as possible. I was moaning, yelling, and sobbing my way through the contractions while they got my IV in and started fluids. I asked for an epidural - no more grand ideas about non-medicated labor, thank you very much - and they told me it would take about 30 minutes because they had to order labwork. I was fine with that; there was an end in sight. I had a wonderful nurse named Flo who did a pelvic exam (yeehaw!) and told me I was dilated to 7 cm and entering transition labor. Once they found out how far along things were they decided to go ahead and page the anethesiologist. Since my Group B Strep test was negative they could bypass the labwork. From the time they paged him it was 3 minutes before he walked in the door, and I've never seen a more beautiful sight than that gigantic needle. The nurse sent Aaron out of the room and told him to come back in 15 minutes.
I had several more contractions while the epidural took effect. At one point the anesthesiologist told me I would feel some pressure and some cramping and I'm pretty sure I yelled something like "Really?! You think?!?!". I didn't feel a thing when the needle was inserted, but the next few contractions became steadily easier so I knew it was working. I wasn't completely numb - I could still move my legs and feel the pressure of the contractions - but the pain gradually faded away. I told the anesthesiologist that I was leaving my husband and marrying him. He said he'd "never heard that before" and he winked at me.
Aaron came back in a few minutes later and was relieved to find me back in my typical sarcastic form; although I was so exhausted I could barely keep my eyes open. Flo did another pelvic exam (uncomfortable but not agonizingly painful) and I was dilated to 8 cm. We spent the next hour relaxing while my parents, my brother, my "other mom", and Kelly came in to see us. Then we slept for an hour until the next pelvic exam which showed I was dilated to 10 cm. Flo decided to let us rest a little more and then it was time to push.
Funny story: The doctor called the NICU to be on stand-by because of the length of my labor and the meconium stained fluid. The only man in the room, other than my husband, was a NICU nurse who was basically standing by the wall waiting on Sam. And wouldn't you know, he was standing right behind my doctor. So everytime I pushed he felt the need to look over the doctor's shoulder to see what was happening. Which means that everytime I pushed I saw a man's head suddenly appear behind the doctor and then slowly disappear again. At the time I didn't really notice, but looking back on it that was a little bit bizarre.
Contrary to what the triage nurse told me Saturday morning it did not take 2-3 hours of pushing. It took a little less than 45 minutes, and Sam was born at 4 am on Sunday, July 17th. The nurses checked him over, and before I knew it he was in my arms. Perfectly healthy. 7 pounds, 8 ounces. 20-1/4 inches long. With a full head of dark hair and a perfect replica of my nose.
The next couple of days are sort of a blur thanks to sleep deprivation and pain medication, but we had tons of friends and family stop by and see us. We watched the USA women's soccer team play in the World Cup final on Sunday afternoon. They lost to Japan, but it was still a special memory since Sam was less than 12 hours old and was already watching soccer with his Daddy. Thankfully we had no more bad experiences with nurses after the triage nurse. Everyone was wonderful and extremely helpful.
As I sit on the couch typing this entry Sam is two weeks old and growing like a weed. He went to church for the first time this morning, and he picked the middle of the sermon as the perfect time to throw his first epic fit. I'm certain it won't be the last one since he's showing signs of having a temper like his Mommy. I haven't had so much as a twinge of nausea since Sam was born, so I've been enjoying eating again. I'm not quite used to being able to eat a meal without having to ponder the consequences. As an added bonus, when I got on the scale this morning I was thrilled to see that I'm already back to my pre-baby weight. Don't get me wrong - things are definitely in a different place than they used to be, but the number on the scale is back to where it was in November.
The morning Sam was born Aaron and I were given about two hours to sleep while the hospital staff cleaned him up and performed the basic newborn tests and observations. When they brought him back to us we both just peered at him over the edges of his hospital crib. I looked at Aaron and said "You know how they say when the nurse puts the baby in your arms you forget about the pain? They LIED!!". I don't think I'll ever forget that pain, and I fully intend to hold that experience over his head for the rest of his life. But the thing is, if I had to choose to do it all over again I wouldn't hesitate. I still can't believe that when I glance across the living room on a lazy Sunday afternoon I see this...
And that's most definitely worth 48 hours of pain and frustration.